The Missionary. Canto Eighth

A poem by William Lisle Bowles

Argument.

Indian festival for victory, Old Warrior brought in wounded, Recognises his long-lost son, and dies, Discovery, Conclusion with the Old Warrior's funeral, and prophetic oration by the Missionary.

The morn returns, and, reddening, seems to shed
One ray of glory on the patriot-dead.
Round the dark stone, the victor-chiefs behold!
Still on their locks the gouts of gore hang cold!
There stands the brave Caupolican, the pride
Of Chili, young Lautaro, by his side!
Near the grim circle, pendent from the wood,
Twelve hundred Spanish heads are dripping blood.
Shrill sound the notes of death: in festive dance,
The Indian maids with myrtle boughs advance;
The tinkling sea-shells on their ancles ring,
As, hailing thus the victor-youth, they sing:


Song Of Indian Maids.

Oh, shout for Lautaro, the young and the brave!
The arm of whose strength was uplifted to save,
When the steeds of the strangers came rushing amain,
And the ghosts of our fathers looked down on the slain!

'Twas eve, and the noise of the battle was o'er,
Five thousand brave warriors were cold in their gore;
When, in front, young Lautaro invincible stood,
And the horses and iron-men rolled in their blood!

As the snows of the mountain are swept by the blast,
The earthquake of death o'er the white men has passed;
Shout, Chili, in triumph! the battle is won,
And we dance round the heads that are black in the sun!

Lautaro, as if wrapt in thought profound,
Oft turned an anxious look inquiring round.
He is not here! Say, does my father live?
Ere eager voices could an answer give,
With faltering footsteps and declining head,
And slowly by an aged Indian led,
Wounded and weak the mountain chief appears:
Live, live! Lautaro cried, with bursting tears,
And fell upon his neck, and, kissing, pressed,
With folding arms, his gray hairs to his breast.
Oh, live! I am thy son, thy long-lost child!
The warrior raised his look, and faintly smiled;
Chili, my country, is avenged! he cried:
My son! then sunk upon a shield, and died.
Lautaro knelt beside him, as he bowed,
And kissed his bleeding breast, and wept aloud.
The sounds of sadness through the circle ran,
When thus, with lifted axe, Caupolican:
What, for our fathers, brothers, children, slain,
Canst thou repay, ruthless, inhuman Spain?
Here, on the scene with recent slaughter red,
To sooth the spirits of the brave who bled,
Raise we, to-day, the war-feast of the dead.
Bring forth the chief in bonds! Fathers, to-day
Devote we to our gods the noblest prey!
Lautaro turned his eyes, and, gazing round,
Beheld Valdivia and Anselmo bound!
One stood in arms, as with a stern despair,
His helmet cleft in twain, his temples bare,
Where streaks of blood that dropped upon his mail,
Served but to show his face more deadly pale:
His eyebrows, dark and resolute, he bent,
And stood, composed, to wait the dire event.
Still on the cross his looks Anselmo cast,
As if all thought of this vain world was passed,
And in a world of light, without a shade,
Ev'n now his meek and guileless spirit strayed.
Where stood the Spanish chief, a muttering sound
Rose, and each club was lifted from the ground;
When, starting from his father's corse, his sword
Waving before his once-triumphant lord,
Lautaro cried, My breast shall meet the blow:
But save, save him, to whom my life I owe!
Valdivia marked him with unmoving eye,
Then looked upon his bonds, nor deigned reply;
When Harratomac, stealing with slow pace,
And lifting high his iron-jagged mace,
Smote him to earth; a thousand voices rose,
Mingled with shouts and yells, So fall our foes!
Lautaro gave to tears a moment's space,
As black in death he marked Valdivia's face,
Then cried, Chiefs, friends, and thou, Caupolican,
Oh, spare this innocent and holy man!
He never sailed, rapacious, o'er the deep,
The gold of blood-polluted lands to heap;
He never gave the armed hosts his aid,
But meekly to the Mighty Spirit prayed,
That in all lands the sounds of woe might cease,
And brothers of the wide world dwell in peace!
The victor-youth saw generous sympathy
Already steal to every warrior's eye;
Then thus again: Oh, if this filial tear
Bear witness my own father was most dear;
If this uplifted arm, this bleeding steel
Speak for my country what I felt and feel;
If, at this hour, I meet her high applause,
While my heart beats still ardent in her cause;
Hear, and forgive these tears that grateful flow,
Oh! hear, how much to this poor man I owe!
I was a child, when to my sire's abode,
In Chillan's vale, the armed horsemen rode:
Me, whilst my father cold and breathless lay,
Far off the crested soldiers bore away,
And for a captive sold. No friend was near,
To mark a young and orphan stranger's tear!
This humble man, with kind parental care,
Snatched me from slavery, saved from dark despair;
And as my years increased, protected, fed,
And breathed a father's blessings on my head.
A Spanish maid was with him: need I speak?
Behold, affection's tear still wets my cheek!
Years, as they passed, matured in ripening grace
Her form unfolding, and her beauteous face:
She heard my orphan tale; she loved to hear,
And sometimes for my fortunes dropped a tear.
I could have bowed to direst ills resigned,
But wept at looks so sweet, at words so kind.
Valdivia saw me, now in blooming age,
And claimed me from the father as his page;
The chief too cherished me, yea, saved my life,
When in Peru arose the civil strife.
Yet still remembering her I loved so well,
Oft I returned to the gray father's cell:
His voice instructed me; recalled my youth
From rude idolatry to heavenly truth:
Of this hereafter; he my darkling mind
Cleared, and from low and sensual thoughts refined.
Then first, with feelings new impressed, I strove
To hide the tear of tenderness and love:
Amid the fairest maidens of Peru,
My eyes, my heart, one only object knew:
I lived that object's love and faith to share;
He saw, and blessed us with a father's prayer.
Here, at Valdivia's last and stern command,
I came, a stranger in my native land!
Anselmo (so him call, now most in need,
And standing here in bonds, for whom I plead)
Came, by our chief so summoned, and for aid
To the Great Spirit of the Christians prayed:
Here as a son I loved him, but I left
A wife, a child, of my fond cares bereft,
Never to see again; for death awaits
My entrance now in Lima's jealous gates.
Caupolican, didst thou thy father love?
Did his last dying look affection move?
Pity this aged man; unbend thy brow:
He was my father, is my father, now!
Consenting mercy marks each warrior's mien.
But who is this, what pallid form is seen,
As crushed already by the fatal blow,
Bound, and with looks white as a wreath of snow,
Her hands upon her breast, scarce drawn her breath,
A Spanish woman knelt, expecting death,
Whilst, borne by a dark warrior at her side,
An infant shrunk from the red plumes, and cried!
Lautaro started:
Injured maid of Spain!
Me! me! oh, take me to thine arms again!
She heard his voice, and, by the scene oppressed,
With one faint sigh fell senseless on his breast.
Caupolican, with warm emotion, cried,
Live, live! Lautaro and his beauteous bride!
Live, aged father! and forthwith commands
A warrior to unbind Anselmo's hands.
She raised her head: his eyes first met her view,
As round Lautaro's neck her arms she threw,
Ah, no! she feebly spoke; it is not true!
It is some form of the distempered brain!
Then hid her face upon his breast again.
Dark flashing eyes, terrific, glared around:
Here, his brains scattered by the deadly wound,
The Spanish chief lay on the gory ground.
With lowering brows, and mace yet drooping blood,
And clotted hair, there Mariantu stood.
Anselmo here, sad, yet in sorrow mild,
Appeared: she cried, A blessing on your child,
And knelt, as slow revived her waking sense,
And then, with looks aghast, Oh bear us hence!
Now all the assembled chiefs, assenting, cried,
Live, live! Lautaro and his beauteous bride!
With eager arms Lautaro snatched his boy,
And kissed him in an agony of joy;
Then to Anselmo gave, who strove to speak,
And felt the tear first burning on his cheek:
The infant held his neck with strict embrace,
And kissed his pale emaciated face.
From the dread scene, wet with Valdivia's gore,
His wan and trembling charge Lautaro bore.
There was a bank, where slept the summer-light,
A small stream whispering went in mazes bright,
And stealing from the sea, the western wind
Waved the magnolias on the slope inclined:
The woodpecker, in glittering plumage green,
And echoing bill, beneath the boughs was seen;
And, arched with gay and pendent flowers above,
The floripondio[1] its rich trellis wove.
Lautaro bent, with looks of love and joy,
O'er his yet trembling wife and beauteous boy:
Oh, by what miracle, beloved! say,
Hast thou escaped the perils of the way
From Lima, where our humble dwelling stood,
To these tumultuous scenes, this vale of blood?
Roused by his voice, as from the sleep of death,
Faint she replied, with slow-recovering breath,
Who shall express, when thou, best friend! wert gone,
How sunk my heart! deserted and alone!
Would I were with thee! oft I sat and sighed,
When the pale moon shone on the silent tide,
At length resolved, I sought thee o'er the seas:
The brave bark cheer'ly went before the breeze,
That arms and soldiers to Valdivia bore,
From Lima bound to Chili's southern shore:
I seized the fair occasion, ocean smiled,
As to the sire I bore his lisping child.
The storm arose: with loud and sudden shock
The vessel sunk, disparting on a rock.
Some mariners, amidst the billows wild,
Scarce saved, in one small boat, me and my child.
What I have borne, a captive since that day,
Forgive these tears, I scarce have heart to say!
None pitied, save one gentle Indian maid,
A wild maid, of her looks I was afraid;
Her long black hair upon her shoulders fell,
And in her hand she bore a wreathed shell.
Lautaro for a moment turned aside,
And, Oh, my sister! with faint voice he cried.
Already free from sorrow and alarms,
I clasped in thought a husband in my arms,
When a dark warrior, stationed on the height,
Who held his solitary watch by night,
Before me stood, and lifting high his lance,
Exclaimed: No further, on thy life, advance!
Faint, wearied, sinking to the earth with dread,
Back to the dismal cave my steps he led.
Only at eve, within the craggy cleft,
Some water, and a cake of maize, were left.
The thirteenth sun unseen went down the sky;
When morning came, they brought me forth to die;
But hushed be every sigh, each boding fear,
Since all I sought on earth, and all I love, is here!
Her infant raised his hands, with glistening eye,
To reach a large and radiant butterfly,
That fluttered near his face; with looks of love,
And truth and tenderness, Lautaro strove
To calm her wounded heart; the holy sire,
His eyes faint-lighted with a transient fire,
Hung o'er them, and to Heaven his prayer addressed,
While, with uplifted hands, he wept and blest.
An aged Indian came, with feathers crowned,
And knelt before Lautaro on the ground.
What tidings, Indian?

Indian.

When I led thy sire,
Whom late thou saw'st upon his shield expire,
Son of our Ulmen, didst thou mark no trace,
In these sad looks, of a remembered face?
Dost thou remember Izdabel? Look here!
It is thy father's hatchet and his spear.
Friend of my infant days, how I rejoice,
Lautaro cried, once more to hear that voice!
Life like a dream, since last we met, has fled,
Oh, my beloved sister, thou art dead!

Indian.

I come to guide thee through untrodden ways,
To the lone valley, where thy father's days
Were passed; where every cave and every tree,
From morn to morn, reminded him of thee!
Lautaro cried: Here, faithful Indian, stay;
I have a last sad duty yet to pay.
A little while we part: thou here remain.
He spake, and passed like lightning o'er the plain.
Ah, cease, Castilian maid, thy vain alarms!
See where he comes, his father in his arms!
Now lead, he cried. The Indian, sad and still,
Paced on from wood to vale, from vale to hill;
Her infant tired, and hushed a while to rest,
Smiled, in a dream, upon its mother's breast;
The pensive mother gray Anselmo led;
Behind, Lautaro bore his father dead.
Beneath the branching palms they slept at night;
The small birds waked them ere the morning light.
Before their path, in distant view, appeared
The mountain-smoke, that its dark column reared
O'er Andes' summits, in the pale blue sky,
Lifting their icy pinnacles so high.
Four days they onward held their eastern way;
On the fifth rising morn, before them lay
Chillan's lone glen, amid whose windings green,
The Warrior's loved and last abode was seen.
No smoke went up, a stillness reigned around,
Save where the waters fell with soothing sound,
Save where the Thenca sang so loud and clear,
And the bright humming-bird was spinning near.
Yet here all human tumults seemed to cease,
And sunshine rested on the spot of peace;
The myrtles bloomed as fragrant and as green
As if Lautaro scarce had left the scene;
And in his ear the falling waters' spray
Seemed swelling with the sounds of yesterday.
Where yonder rock the aged cedars shade,
There shall my father's bones in peace be laid.
Beneath the cedar's shade they dug the ground;
The small and sad communion gathered round.
Beside the grave stood aged Izdabel,
And broke the spear, and cried: Farewell, farewell!
Lautaro hid his face, and sighed Adieu!
As the stone hatchet in the grave he threw.
The little child that to its mother clung,
Stretched out its arm, then on her garment hung,
With sidelong looks, half-shrinking, half-amazed,
And dropped its flowers, unconscious, as it gazed.
And now Anselmo, his pale brow inclined,
The honoured relics, dust to dust, consigned
With Christian rites, and sung, on bending knee,
"Eternam pacem dona, Domine."
Then rising up he closed the holy book;
And lifting in the beam his lighted look,
(The cross, with meekness, folded on his breast),
Here, too, he cried, my bones in peace shall rest!
Few years remain to me, and never more
Shall I behold, O Spain! thy distant shore!
Here lay my bones, that the same tree may wave
O'er the poor Christian's and the Indian's grave.
Oh, may it (when the sons of future days
Shall hear our tale and on the hillock gaze),
Oh, may it teach, that charity should bind,
Where'er they roam, the brothers of mankind!
The time shall come, when wildest tribes shall hear
Thy voice, O Christ! and drop the slaughtering spear.
Yet we condemn not him who bravely stood,
To seal his country's freedom with his blood;
And if, in after-times, a ruthless band
Of fell invaders sweep my native land,
May she, by Chili's stern example led,
Hurl back his thunder on the assailant's head;
Sustained by Freedom, strike the avenging blow,
And learn one virtue from her ancient foe!

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